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Speeded up decommissioning of Crystal River nuclear reactor – some concerns about this

Duke nuclear plant demolition timeline cut from half-century to 7 years, By KEVIN SPEAR, ORLANDO SENTINEL |OCT 07, 2020   Duke Energy is poised to begin demolition of its shuttered nuclear plant, with a timeline reduced from nearly six decades to seven years because of a drop in costs.

Duke’s 890-megawatt reactor near Crystal River at the Gulf of Mexico has been out of commission since 2009, when a construction accident crippled the containment building. In 2015, facing a projected demolition cost of more than $1 billion, Duke was prepared to let the plant remain for 60 years before removing it.

But with the aging of nuclear power around the world and competitive advances in demolition technology, Duke is proceeding with a fixed contract of $540 million to remove the plant. That cost is to be covered by a trust fund of $717 million already paid for by the utility’s customers.

A newly formed company, Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, has begun engineering designs for demolition and is about to remove structures and infrastructure outside of the reactor building.

Accelerated Decommissioning Partners is a joint venture that includes NorthStar Group Services, which describes itself as the world’s largest demolition company, with services ranging from hurricane cleanup to asbestos removal, and is currently taking down the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station.

The other partner is Orano USA, a supplier of nuclear materials and services. In 2018, the company transferred the Crystal River plant’s used nuclear fuel from a storage pool to containment within dry casks that are now stored in concrete bunkers at the plant site. There is no designated disposal facility in the U.S. for used fuel, and the dry casks could remain at Duke’s Crystal River site for years or decades………

In 2009, a major effort to extend the life of the the reactor damaged the reactor-containment building’s 3-foot-thick wall. After botched repair attempts, the plant was declared economically beyond repair.

The additional cost that customers had to absorb for the attempted upgrade and trying to fix the containment building was an estimated $1.7 billion, according to the Florida Office of Public Counsel, a legislatively created agency that serves as an advocate for utility customers.

Other lost nuclear costs would arise from Duke’s move to build a $22 billion plant in Levy County. That initiative was announced in 2006 but abandoned within a decade, resulting in costs that customers had to absorb of more than $870 million .

Charles Rehwinkel of the Office of Public Counsel said Duke’s contract with Accelerated Decommissioning Partners should have included better protections in case of demolition or financial problems.

We remained concerned that this process, which is fairly new, could have a problem down the road,” Rehwinkel said. “The problems we would be concerned about would be cost overruns and if they get part way through the process in an area where there is still contaminated metal components and there is a bankruptcy or some halt that leaves them in the position of Duke having to get somebody else to come in.”

Edward Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said there isn’t much track record yet for the kind of accelerated decommissioning and demolition being performed at Duke’s plant.

But his initial concern is that Duke’s fixed-price contract with the joint venture leaves little flexibility for dealing with unexpected challenges.

They are going to have a strong incentive to minimize cost and that could potentially come at the cost of safety,” Lyman said……..

The most challenging work will involve the reactor vessel, a cylindrical assembly the size of a semitruck, with steel walls at least 5 inches thick.

Roberts said crews will cut the vessel into pieces while submerged underwater, which blocks radiation.

Cuts will be done with robots and other remotely controlled machines with a variety of band saws, diamond-wire saws and high pressure water jets with abrasive ingredients. Cutting will be according to specific sizes, shapes and weights.

While still underwater, pieces will be inserted into canisters, which, in turn, will be inserted into steel casks for shipment “more than likely by rail” to a disposal site in west Texas, Roberts said……

October 8, 2020 - Posted by | decommission reactor, USA

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